In recent years, software platforms and their ecosystems have transformed entire industries, created new ones, and eradicated others. To remain competitive, traditional firms need to adapt to those changing conditions. However, there has only been sparse research on an ecosystem level about how firms with a Goods-Dominant logic that fosters value-in-exchange based on sequential value-add in dyadic business networks transition toward a Service-Dominant ecosystem that builds on value-in-use by integrating multiple actors into value co-creating activities. This study draws on a single in-depth case study within the context of a manufacturing company that implemented a software platform to facilitate the transition of roles from a business network toward a service ecosystem. We develop a preliminary process model that builds on the concept of liminality—being between an old and a new role—and role changes to illustrate how firms steer this transition. The results indicate that the manufacturer institutionalizes pre-defined roles for partners by incentivizing the adoption of the software platform. However, existing partners do not necessarily internalize pre-defined roles as expected, but also self-explore new roles based on the affordances of the software platform. This study provides first results on role transitions in emerging ecosystems via control and exploration.



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